Iraqi Tribal Group Says U.S. Killed Its Members, Not Insurgents
BAGHDAD, Nov. 16 — A tribal group tapped by Americans forces to root out extremists here said today that over four dozen of its members were killed during United States air and ground strikes north of the capital earlier this week. But the United States military insisted that the attacks were aimed instead At al Qaeda and had killed 25 of its insurgents.
“We had some people on the ground who identified these individuals as bad guys, basically,” said Lt. Justin Cole, a spokesman for the coalition forces. “That’s why we engaged. And there is really no change in our posture since then.”
The attacks were mounted late Tuesday near Taji, a restive town 15 miles north of Baghdad, after American forces said they spotted armed men in the area and detected “hostile intent.” Helicopters and airplanes strafed buildings, and ground troops later exchanged fire with men who had shot at them, according to the military version of events.
. . . Yet Sheik Jasim Zaidan Khalaf, who heads one of the area’s American-backed tribal groups, known as an Awakening Council, said the Americans had erred in the attack. . . “The Americans suspected our people,” the sheik said. “The whole issue started with a mistake.”
This is a particularly tough war for the U.S. forces on the ground, because they have lost almost all credibility. Basically, “We had some people on the ground who identified these individuals as bad guys, basically,” is basically pretty raw reasoning.
Particularly in a country where inter-tribal rivalries are likely to put almost anyone ‘on the ground,’ opposing tribes as well as anyone paid by anyone.
American forces said they spotted armed men in the area and detected “hostile intent.”
If you are an armed man in Iraq (what with all the machine-gunning of unarmed women driving their kids to school in Baghdad), ‘hostile intent’ is a tough one to call.
There was a Vietnam motto that said ‘kill ’em all and sort ’em out later,’ which may have seen a re-insurgence in Iraq. There is (and was) a fear born of not recognizing an enemy that leads to irrational use of force–as though any aspect of war was truly rational.
But like so many military explanations, this one sounds like a covering of butts.